Between the Conception and Reality: Real-time Marketing

Every website is an educational vehicle that strives to educate us, as users, on how the site should be used.  The site provides us with symbols and colors that indicate certain actions we should take. Colored text on a website often indicates hypertext we should click on. Cog-like symbols indicate drop down menus that we should explore. At this point in the web’s history, we don’t even stop to question this language but instead accept it as the language of the website. Inevitably, these symbols and colors encourage a particular typical traffic flow for the site. Look at the Visitor Flow (under Audience) menu on Google Analytics and you can view how the language of your website ushers traffic across your site.

Site traffic flow in a perfect world
In a perfect world, the path we take and the path web designers would like for us to take would have a high correlation.  Unfortunately, this is often not the case. Often the pages that are key conversion points or landing pages on the site are buried under four pages of product promotion. In this case, the likelihood of us seeing these pages becomes quite small. The page or pages that a company wants us to see might never be seen.

Site traffic flow in the real world
The diagram below provides a graphical explanation of how website traffic flows. This can be at odds with how designers want the traffic to flow. 

Traffic flow on Google vs. where you want your customers to go

So, the path customers take across your site is not the path you want them to take. But is it only because the relevant pages are buried? Do we only fail to convert because we don’t know how to get to the correct page? There are clearly other explanations. The answer could be that we left the site because it didn’t provide the answers we were looking for. It could be that the wrong signals, colors and symbols were provided to us and thus, we were sent down the incorrect path.  The problem could be that the site was too static and didn’t provide sufficiently interesting content to keep us reading. Unless a site grabs our attention in the first few minutes, we are likely to abandon it.

Real-time marketing: bringing the ideal and the real closer
In essence, websites must reflect a relevant and compelling point of view from the get-go in order to ensure that we users stay on site and interact with it.  An attractive and well designed site goes part of the way towards achieving this goal. The other and more technical solution though is found through interacting with the customer while they are online at your site. Rather than leaving them to take the actions that they see fit, the marketing and web teams need to consider the messages they are providing to users in real time in order to drive them to take the desired action. This task is achieved through real-time marketing.

While the definition of real-time marketing has gone through iterations over the past decade, real-time marketer Evergage notes that it has come to “define a process of marketing to your audience in real-time with dynamically personalized content and offers.” So imagine that you can interact with your site user by providing real-time response, personalized content and messages based on behavior, and interaction across the sales funnel.  With these dynamic interactions, your customers are driven to the pages you want them to see.  Customers take the actions you want them to take, whether that is filling out forms, reviewing blogs or commenting on new content. Viewing content is no longer left to luck.

Why real-time is the total customer solution
The case for real-time marketing also engages with a fundamental understanding of how customers want to be treated by your site. Customers don’t often want to be treated as anonymous visitors. If they have engaged with your site in the past through blogs or short forms, their eyeballs should be rewarded. In this instance, eyeballs want to receive the customer loyalty that is often given to frequent customers at any brick and mortar establishment.  Real-time marketing allows marketers to talk to customers and offer them a reason to stay on-site either through , for example, coupons or through express service.

Furthermore, digital media is in large part based on the concept of creating relationships on the web. Marketers also attempt to achieve this goal through social media channels. Marketers engage in social media so that they can create relationships that will in turn create loyal and engaged customers. Clearly, websites cannot be immune. If marketers don’t want customers to churn through their site and leave then they must engage in real-time marketing solutions.

To quote Evergage, “compelling engagement happens when you take into account the full picture of who someone is …. That is real-time marketing.” And that message is one we need to better teach web designers and marketers.

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